Body Imaging: MRI vs CT Scan

May 4, 2017 – 2 min read

Share this post:

If you have never had a body imaging scan like a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test or a computerized axial tomography (CAT or CT) scan, you may have questions about the difference between the two types of diagnostic imaging tests. These types of tests can be performed in a hospital or clinical setting, or at a non-hospital imaging center, like American Health Imaging (AHI).

While both MRIs and CT scans are diagnostic imaging tests, there are some important differences.

Conditions Diagnosed

Doctors often order CT scans for patients with known or suspected lung or chest issues, or bone injuries. CT scans can help detect cancer. CT scans can image soft tissue, bone and blood vessels at the same time.

MRI is best-suited for helping doctors evaluate problems related to joints, tendons and soft tissues, including spinal cord injuries. MRIs can also help detect the existence of brain tumors.

Use of Radiation

MRI machines do not use radiation. CT scans do use radiation – approximately the same amount you could otherwise expect to receive over a three- to five- year period. Because too much radiation can be harmful, MRIs are not recommended for children or expectant mothers in most circumstances.

Sometimes, a contrast agent will be used with an MRI to help the technician produce better images for your doctor to review.


There are also important differences in the length of time needed to conduct these imaging tests. CT scans are generally very fast, and can be completed in a matter of minutes. MRIs, on the other hand, can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes to more than an hour, just depending on what is being scanned/imaged.


Generally speaking, CT scans are less expensive than MRIs. Of course, remember that AHI offers diagnostic imaging using the same high-quality equipment and trained personnel you would expect elsewhere, at a significantly lower out-of-pocket cost.


For some patients, the decision to order one test over another may also be made based on other considerations. Because MRIs use magnetic forces, patients who have implanted medical devices like pacemakers or other implanted metal may not be good candidates for MRI scans.

Similarly, patients who suffer from high anxiety or claustrophobia may also have a harder time with an MRI than with a CT scan.

Which Imaging Test is Right for You?

Ultimately, your doctor will determine which medical tests, including imaging tests, are necessary to help diagnose a medical condition, so a treatment plan can be determined.

If Your Doctor has Ordered an MRI or CT Scan, Contact AHI to Make an Appointment Today!

At AHI, we are proud to conduct different types of diagnostic imaging for patients in a convenient, non-hospital campus setting, and at a much lower cost than what you would expect to pay a hospital.

To learn more, and to schedule an appointment in any of our convenient locations in Alabama, Georgia, Florida or Texas, contact AHI today online, or by calling (855) MRI-CHOICE.